In his new book, former US national security adviser John Bolton said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed doubts to him about the assignment of Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner as chief architect of the administration’s Middle East peace plan.
Bolton said that before joining the White House, he had a conversation with Netanyahu in which the premier expressed his skepticism, according to Thursday reports from CNN and The Wall Street Journal.
Netanyahu “was dubious about assigning the task of bringing an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict to Kushner, whose family Netanyahu had known for many years,” Bolton wrote. “He was enough of a politician not to oppose the idea publicly, but like much of the world, he wondered why Kushner thought he would succeed where the likes of Kissinger had failed.”
Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, played a key role in drafting the White House’s “Peace to Prosperity” proposal for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The plan was unveiled at the White House in late January.
Following the publication of Bolton’s claims, the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday said that Netanyahu “has complete faith in Jared Kushner’s abilities and resolve and rejects any description to the contrary. Kushner has greatly contributed to furthering peace in the Middle East.”
The PMO statement credited Kushner with formulating the White House peace plan, contributing to Trump’s decisions to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and advancing Israel’s ties with the Arab world.
“With these accomplishments alone and under President Trump’s leadership, Kushner has already achieved what others before him did not accomplish. We are confident that working together we can achieve the lasting and secure peace that we all desire,” said the statement, which did not directly mention Bolton’s claims.
The Trump proposal states that its goal is to serve as the basis for a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian accord, but with the Palestinian Authority having preemptively rejected the plan, Netanyahu has been seeking since it was unveiled to unilaterally extend Israeli sovereignty to the areas allocated to Israel under the plan.
Under the coalition deal between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White, Netanyahu can begin annexing settlements and the Jordan Valley — approximately 30 percent of the West Bank — from July 1. The Trump administration has indicated it will not oppose Netanyahu’s declared plans to do so, providing Israel accepts its peace plan, which conditionally provides for a Palestinian state on the remaining 70 percent of the territory, with additional land swaps.
Netanyahu’s vows to push ahead with unilateral annexation have been condemned internationally, with European and Arab states, as well as senior members of the US Democratic Party, warning the Israeli government against doing so.
Netanyahu’s vows to move forward with the process have also met with pushback from some settler leaders, who oppose any notion of Palestinian statehood, and his coalition partner Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who opposes unilateral action.
Talks this week between Likud and Blue and White were said to have underlined significant disagreements between the parties on the whole notion of unilateral annexation, as well as on the size of the territory to be annexed, the schedule for implementing the move, and the order of the steps that should be taken.
Bolton’s book, titled “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” is set to be released Tuesday by Simon & Schuster.
In the book, excerpts of which were published by three newspapers Wednesday, Bolton savages Trump, alleging that he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping for reelection help, voiced support for Beijing’s mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims and other minorities and was widely ignorant of the world.
The 577-page book paints an unvarnished portrait of Trump and his administration, amounting to the most vivid, first-person account yet of how Trump conducts himself in office.
Several other former officials have written books, but most have been flattering about the president. Other former officials have indicated they were saving their accounts of their time working for Trump until after he left office to speak more candidly.
The Trump administration is scrambling to stop publication of the memoir, arguing that it contains classified material. The White House asked a federal court for an emergency temporary restraining order Wednesday against its release.
Trump on Thursday dismissed the book as “pure fiction,” and called Bolton “a sick puppy.”
The book is a “a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Deeply critical of the president and much of his senior team, Bolton wrote that because staff had served him so poorly, Trump “saw conspiracies behind rocks, and remained stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House, let alone the huge federal government.”
The book includes embarrassing claims that Trump thought Finland was part of Russia, didn’t know that the United Kingdom was a nuclear power, and called reporters “scumbags” who should be “executed.”
Bolton said in an interview released Thursday to promote the book that Trump is incompetent and has no guiding principles.
“I don’t think he’s fit for office. I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job,” Bolton told ABC News.